Boycotts are a time-honored means of protest in our capitalist system. Nothing speaks to private enterprise like the loss of revenue, so people frequently boycott businesses in the U.S. to make a point or encourage a policy change. But you have probably never heard of a company boycotting potential customers — until today.
In the wake of new legislation passed by the State of New York which effectively outlaws the ownership or possession of semi-automatic rifles by citizens, a number of gun companies have announced that they will not sell guns to agencies, employees, or other representatives of the state of New York.
Their reasoning: If citizens cannot own these weapons, the police shouldn't have them, either.
Olympic Arms, LaRue Tactical, and EFI, all manufacturers of AR-15 platforms, have all released public statements to this effect.
EFI's website expresses the sentiment quite clearly in their government sales policy: "If a product that we manufacture is not legal for a private citizen to own in a jurisdiction, we will not sell that product to a law-enforcement agency in that jurisdiction." Company President Melinda Meador says government sales account for only about 10% of the company's business. Her company also declines to sell firearms to customers of any kind in Washington, D.C., Chicago, or California.
Olympic Arms takes it a step further. Their Facebook page makes it clear that "no New York State government entity or employee of such an entity will be served as customers." It seems a little harsh to "punish" individual employees of the state of New York, but since private ownership of these guns is illegal anyway, it's a mostly symbolic point. Still, it prevents, say, an accountant for the New York State Police from using their position to get around the New York ban.
Personally, I like the semi-snarky tone of LaRue's policy. LaRue Tactical frames their policy in liability terms on their Facebook page, asserting that it's simply not worth the risk of accidentally selling a firearm to anyone in New York. So they won't sell to anyone in New York — including police. "[L]ost sales are less danger to this firm than potential lawsuits from erroneous shipments generated by something as simple as human error." But, the essence of their policy is the same "LaRue Tactical will limit all sales to what law-abiding citizens residing in their districts can purchase or possess."
So far reaction from within New York appears to be limited. Given the number of manufacturers who make tactical rifles, it's unlikely that any police in the state will run out of guns any time soon. But sometimes from a tiny acorn does a mighty oak grow.
Just last month a major hunting and fishing exhibition in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was cancelled when vendors pulled out following the promoter's decision to ban tactical rifles from the show. Reed Exhibitions, a British company, ironically based their decision on the possibility that the presence of tactical rifles at the event would attract "negative attention." The absence of tactical rifles, however, got the attention of as many as 350 of the event's originally slated 1000 vendors - who pulled out of the show.
Cabela's, an outdoor outfitter and one of the show's four main sponsors, was among the first to withdraw their support. Reed's website naturally tried to put a positive spin on the outcome of their decision and claimed that only a "small percentage" of vendors had decided to pull out and that the show was merely being "postponed." At the top of the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show website, however, there's a link for people to follow for ticket refunds. In addition to nearly a third of the vendors, five scheduled hunting and fishing celebrity speakers (including an Olympic gold medalist) cancelled, and the National Wild Turkey Federation announced that they are looking for a new venue for their sanctioned turkey calling contest.
I can't help wondering if Piers Morgan is on the board at Reed Exhibitions ... At $1200 per booth and $14 per ticket, the company is sure to feel the backlash of their decision. It seems highly unlikely that 1000 vendors will find an empty spot on their calendar if Reed were to even attempt to reschedule the show.
Lest anyone rejoice over the cancellation of "another gun show," it's important to realize that the Eastern Sports Show is one of the oldest and largest events of its kind and attracts hundreds of thousands of people, including families, from all over the region. It's not a "gun show." It's a hunting and fishing show, and by many accounts one of the biggest events in Harrisburg. The city's hotels, restaurants, and other businesses lost an estimated $44 to $80 million in revenue.
Clearly, a move by one or two companies can escalate into something much larger. At least one pro-gun website is encouraging a boycott against gun and ammo companies who do any business with New York police departments. If the gun manufacturer boycott against the state of New York catches on like the boycott of the Eastern Show did, it will be interesting to see what legislators do between now and March when their new gun ban law takes effect.